Eat & Support Organics: For you, the animals and the planet

My husband Hugo and I have repeatedly experienced scenarios with coworkers and friends where they question why we eat organically.  When we sit with these people at lunch and they catch a glance of a drink or packaged item of food, we are often questioned regarding what it is and where its from.  Their aggressive line of questioning is often summed up with an awkward, uncomfortable look of relative disgust, since we are obviously the weird ones who eat strange things.  In addition, if we happen to say we bought the delicious and healthy item at Whole Foods, their look also encompasses a sprinkle of ‘you wealthy little snob who shops at the expensive grocery store.’

As I type up this quick synopsis of how almost every encounter with those around us at snack time goes, I realize, even more than before, how crazy this uneducated behavior truly is.  Both Hugo and I were not raised in an area or around people who were so confrontational and unfamiliar with quality sustenance.  And honestly, this shit gets annoying because we eat organically for a variety of reasons, none of which the majority of people understand.  After awhile, I get tired of being asked what I’m drinking (kombucha), explaining what it is and why its delicious and nutritious, and then receiving a rude look and snarky comment.  In my opinion, those who are eating conventionally deserve the scowl, seeing as the farming process degrades the earth, the involved animals, and our bodies.  I guess I could go on about this forever and I do truly wish I had more, well organized time to retort when confronted.  In the end, my intentions are to educate others about my personal, multi-faceted love for organics and why it should be important to everyone.

First off, growing and producing organic food is the only sustainable, long-term approach we should have and need to have.  With the bulk application of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, conventional farmers are killing their overworked soil, allowing lethal run-off into our streams, rivers and oceans (which in turn contribute to algae blooms), and killing our bees.  Our poor honey bees – the mass army of soldiers who pollinate nearly all of our food, therefore enabling us to eat and survive as a species – are dying at a rapid and alarming rate, primarily as a result of exposure to the main, cancer-causing ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate.  It is disgusting, scary and widely used by ignorant people everywhere and, in turn, honey bees nationwide are meeting a sad, toxic fate.  While I could write about our declining honey bee population all day long, please read more via my included links.

Second, raising organic meat and planting and harvesting organic produce is the only ethical and healthy way to farm.  Organic standards for animals require the livestock to be free of antibiotics and hormones and to be fed a strict diet of organic feed.  In addition, the majority of organic meat producers also provide lovely quarters for their animals, which include large outdoor areas, access to grass and fresh air, and living conditions that do not include overcrowded, factory-style barracks.  Of course all of these variables are dependent on the type of animal and the farm’s location on the globe.

Finally, eating organically is good for you!  When fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, dairy and everything else we ingest, is humanely raised without synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, the antioxidant level is drastically higher, the taste speaks for itself and the human being actually consuming it is not coating their insides with carcinogenic sludge.  Case in point – Dr. Mercola attests to increased antioxidant levels and the Pesticide Action Network explains pesticide accumulation in our bodies.

I will never forget the car ride with my mom from a short few years back that is forever ingrained in my photographic memory.  While driving home from a long, relaxing day at the beach, during one of her many trips to visit Hugo and I on the opposite coast from her, we took the scenic route through the massive expanse of citrus farms just west of our house.  While winding through this particular farmland in the late afternoon, off to the right of the car we both observed one of the more disturbing things I have seen – a man wearing a full-body, hazmat style suit, face mask and boots spraying chemicals on a crop.  Although our observation only lasted for a brief moment as we passed by, the image was forged into both of our minds and we continue to talk about how sad and frustrating it was to see.

To think of just how much and how often pesticides are sprayed on conventional crops is beyond troubling because my heart hurts for the school kids who are inhaling the fumes and being coated with the particulate mist downwind from these commercial farms.  My heart hurts for the farm workers who may not be educated on the effects of exactly what they are using on a daily basis, or maybe they are yet they need the income and are willing to take on the extreme health risks from exposure so they can provide for their families.  My heart hurts for the cows, pigs, chickens and every other innocent animal who is pumped with hormones or antibiotics, or both, to increase their size, up their production and keep them sickness-free, since they are overcrowded and not taken care of, thus leading to poor health and zero immunity.  When the herbicides run into the ground water or enter a farmland adjacent stream, slowly flowing into larger bodies of water and eventually into the ocean, they pollute our oceans, kill those who live there and contribute to deadly algae blooms.  My heart hurts when beaches are closed and fish are floating dead to the surface.  And finally, my heart hurts to think of a developing baby being exposed to mass amounts of pesticides as their uneducated mother eats our mass-market fast food around the clock, polluting her body and the blood supply to her unborn son or daughter.  In the end, my heart just hurts.

So, given my thoughts and raw emotions behind why I care so much about organics, it really makes me both mad and sad when all of these people I engage with at work or in public either have no idea about what it means to eat organic or they scoff at the idea of a quality, non-toxic item costing $1 more.  Their lack of manners, common sense, and brain cells astounds me but, regardless, I will always continue to explain what kombucha is, tell them where I bought it, and say, with a big smile, that it tastes delicious.  I’ll do this probably until the day I die because you never know, maybe my rambling about the honey bees might just change someone’s mind.

Disgusting

A girl that I work with was bitten by a black widow while working a few days ago.  Not a huge deal since it is SoCal where black widows, among other spider species, are common.  Also not that devastating of a situation seeing as she only sustained swelling and mild discomfort.  The most frustrating aspect of the entire ordeal is that fact that our organization has decided to drastically increase their application of insecticides.  They intend to do so by having our contracted pest control company come to spray in more areas of our building and on a more frequent basis.

I am so disturbed by this response, considering the building itself is old and extremely dirty.  Rather than cleaning and approaching a potential bug problem with a natural, common-sense approach, our management, who is not health conscious in the least, went with the quick fix.  I understand that pesticides and insecticides are household products that countless citizens use in their homes without thought.  However, I am not one of them and I do not appreciate having to be exposed to toxins based on others’ ignorance.  I wish people would educate themselves regarding the risks of exposure to chemicals and be more aware of how they were taking care of themselves and one another.

Fight for farmers and vote with your dollars

I can’t believe that as a 34-year-old, independent working woman, I am about to say…I am bogged down with schoolwork!  As I scroll through endless syllabus pages that outline research papers and a multitude of assignments, I can’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?”  In the end, it is a very good thing and I am quite pleased that I am back to school, back to school, as Adam Sandler would say.

Just a heads up to anyone out there that cares (and honestly people, everyone should care about this insanely important issue), the Farm Bill is back on Congress’ agenda this week.  Read about it, sign a petition and have a voice in changing our country’s pitiful environmental policies.

Also, a local community organizer in Ventura County, which is adjacent to our home, wrote this blog post about the heavy use of chlorpyrifos in Ventura County that I enjoyed reading earlier today.  Educate yourself on the toxins that are being applied to the conventionally grown foods that you eat.  I have personally driven past the farms they describe in this article – on any given day you can observe farm workers in hazmat-style suits applying chemicals to strawberries and other crops.  It really makes you sick.

My dad sent me a cool link this morning to a company called The Cornucopia Institute so I thought I would share it here.  This link provides all US-based organic dairy farms with a rating, based on their farming practices and care for their animals.  It is interesting to see that all organic brands are not equal, with vast and shocking differences existing between the highest and lowest ranking names.  What I learned from this ranked list is that the majority of large grocery store chains, who have in-house organic brands, are among the lowest ranking.  These bottom-dweller brands are doing the bare minimum to be in compliance for organic certification and I don’t think I will be supporting them anymore.  Hugo and I chatted about the rankings and were happy to see that the brands we normally buy (Stonyfield, Annie’s Homegrown, Organic Valley, etc.) are at least 4 cow brands!

As a final note, I urge anyone that is reading this to think long and hard about what you put into your body and what kind of planet you want to live on.  I personally don’t want to ingest chemical-coated strawberries and genetically modified sweet corn, swim in algae-bloom ponds next to golf courses with bountiful herbicide run-off, or drink milk from cows who have been fed low quality grain, locked in a dark barn, absent sunlight and love, all while being injected with hormones to increase milk production.  Consider the choices you make at the supermarket as an election – every time you buy an item, you are placing a vote for the company, the farming practices and the animals that fall victim to it all.  I choose to vote with my dollars to support those who care about our health and the earth at large and I sure hope you do too.

 

Major victory for the environment and Dewayne Johnson – Say NO to RoundUp!

If you haven’t seen the headline yet, there was a major victory today for environmental justice and a very sick man.  Monsanto, the agricultural giant who is responsible for the grossly popular weedkiller RoundUp, was ordered to pay $289 million to Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who developed cancer as a result of being exposed to the herbicide (primary ingredient of glyphosate).  Read the full article here.

This victory hopefully signifies a shift in the wind regarding the widespread and accepted use of this harsh chemical.  Despite multiple scientific studies, and the horribly sick people to prove its harmful effects, companies such as Monsanto are able to weasel their way into the pockets of the EPA and lawmakers.  Glyphosate is still widely used in the US despite being banned in Europe (the EU tends to be much more environmentally progressive and intelligent than the US most of the time).  We can only hope that this landmark case will continue to move our country closer to ridding our farm workers’ and landscapers’ hands from this nasty toxin.

Attack of the Natural Deodorants

All people sweat.  It is the body’s natural way of cooling off.   Some people sweat more than others and not everyone sweats from the same parts of their bodies.  While most sweat from their armpits, others might also sweat from the palms of their hands (me!) or anywhere else a pore is located on your body.  When we experience turbulence on an airplane, I clench Hugo’s hands as if he is my lifeline to safety.  With the anxiety of a bumping flight, my hands sweat like no other, sometimes even requiring me to wipe my hands on my pants.  Anyways, enough gross info about my clammy hands, time to progress to the topic at hand.  Since Hugo happens to sweat heavily and he also has to work 20 hour days at work once or twice a week (with this week’s temps in SoCal reaching well over 100 degrees) , we have cycled through deodorants in a never-ending search for an effective product that is also within our health parameters.

To start, we do not wear antiperspirants for two reasons.  The primary reason being that antiperspirants are made with aluminum, which we intend to avoid at all costs.  Aluminum in antiperspirants has been linked to everything from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.  I don’t care if topical aluminum exposure was only linked to a head cold, I would still avoid it.

The second reason for not wearing antiperspirants is the fact that the goal of antiperspirants is to block your body’s ability to sweat, which is a natural function that should not be stopped.  Sweating plays a necessary role in our bodies by cooling us off and it is completely unnatural to attempt to stop that process.

Through the years, Hugo and I have been involved in a never-ending quest to find an effective natural deodorant.  I took the attached picture of just a few of the many products we have tried in the past six months or so but there have been countless other brands that haven’t made the cut.  We have tried Tom’s products (not that great), Burt’s Bees (also not that great) and Origins No Offense deodorant (expensive but it works a bit better than the others).  We also tried another really interesting product that we found on Amazon called Organic Island Deodorant with Probiotics.  That product is very interesting.  Effective, yes, but it is devoid of scent.  You can mix it with essential oils, which we tried in the small tub version, but in the end, Hugo’s pits are the judge and they gave it a B-.

Finally, a recent gift from my Mom proved to be one of the best smelling, strongest odor-fighting sticks we have found.  As always, Mom to the rescue! Introducing… Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Deodorant.  Per Hugo, it works quite well and he has a pretty damn good opinion regarding natural deodorants because he has probably tried upwards of twenty different brands in the past couple of years.  I am a bit puzzled as to why it received such mediocre reviews on Amazon (as evidenced through my link).  I didn’t read the reviews but it could also be judged by people who are used to harsh chemical products, which undoubtedly work well, however they are absolutely awful for you.

Hopefully this short piece on attempting to cure stinky pits will serve to inform at least one person out there about the harmful effects of aluminum and the many options that serve as healthier alternatives.

Super cool stuff you didn’t know that you NEEDED to know about

I have featured all of the below on my links page but since you might not make your way there, I thought I would put these links out here on front street.  This is just the beginning too.  I am endorsing all of these things solely based on my loving them.  If you have a place, product, or anything else worthwhile that you think should be reviewed, please drop me a line.

Super cool stuff that you didn’t know you NEEDED to know about:

Alaska Airlines – My favorite airline.  When you call, you speak to real human beings, normally in Idaho (yes, that’s a state in the USA). Also, in times of need, they are incredibly gracious with waiving fees and actually taking care of their customers.  Their credit card is excellent too. Great perks, such as a free companion fare every year, and no foreign transaction fees.

Alden’s Organic Ice Cream – Delicious ice cream that is made the way it should be, by respecting the cows who provide the base of your ice cream elixir.  Grab yourself a quart and keep it all to yourself 🙂

Chanel Nail Polish – Because of my job (both my actual occupation and place of employment shall remain unnamed), I need to keep my nails simple and clean.  Chanel Nail Polish in Ballerina is the perfect color; I feel feminine while still maintaining a simple, respectable look.

Coyuchi – Very expensive organic bedding/clothing company but based on the one insanely soft blanket I bought from them, very well worth it.  I am starting a piggy bank so I can buy Hugo and I some new bed sheets from here in 2025.

Living on the Earth – Bill Duesing’s essays speak the conscience of the environmental movement in Connecticut. For years I have clipped and saved them for inspiration. Duesing reminds us that the simplest pleasures of life bring the most personal happiness and the greatest harmony with nature. — Representative Mary Mushinshy, Assistant Majority Leader, Connecticut General Assembly

Perfect Bar – THE BEST PROTEIN BAR EVER!!  I survive on these almost daily.

Pesticide Action Network – Support the work they do for our earth by donating a few dollars, signing their petitions or both.

San Jorge Eco-Lodges & Botanical Reserves – 1,700 species of birds, 65 hummingbird species, 15 waterfalls, 14 unique ecosystems, 7 private birding reserves, 4 unique eco-lodges and not one good reason why you shouldn’t visit this magical place in Ecuador.

Teeccino – Amazing coffee alternative.  Really enjoyable at night when you are craving a hot cup of coffee but aren’t interested in late-night caffeine.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon and stir in a little whole milk.  Delish!

Uncommon Goods – Cool online boutique for unique gifts.

Honey Bee Haven

Just a quick Sunday night bedtime note:  I stumbled across this cool link from the PAN (Pesticide Action Network) website that, in a nutshell, maps pesticide-free/bee-friendly zones throughout the US of A.  What a beautiful thing and what an incredibly sad thing, all at once.  Beautiful because there are people networking to restore our rapidly diminishing bee populations, which have been devastated due to the disgustingly broad and over-used applications of neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides, which are absorbed by plants and toxic to bees.  Sad because of the very content of that last sentence.  Please do all that you can to learn about the harmful effects of pesticide use both at home and on the farm and support organic farming by voting with your dollars at the super market.  Access the Honey Bee Haven and map your home, if applicable.  Also, for a $50 donation, you can receive one of those cute signs to post with pride.  I plan on getting mine very soon 🙂